As you will by now know, our long-standing Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, has stepped down from his role to spend more time with his family. Mr Lochhead has been very supportive of the Scottish Rural Parliament, having seen for himself the effectiveness of the Swedish version in strengthening the voice of rural communities. He was a great champion for us in the Scottish Government and we wish him all the best for the future, and thank him for his support over the last three years.
The rural agenda has always cut across the portfolios of several Ministers, encompassing as it does so many different elements, from transport to housing to education and more, but the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs has taken the lead on rural issues. The new Cabinet appointed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week includes a Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, rather than for Rural Affairs. Other Cabinet Secretaries hold the portfolios for issues such as energy, climate change, European Structural Funds and land reform. It is of course encouraging to see Connectivity receiving such a high profile, and it will take some time for us to see how this changes impacts on rural policy. We will keep you updated.
Elections are always busy times for organisations such as ours, and we’ve been spending time too on developing our own Manifesto for rural Scotland. Our Manifesto will state the ambitions and needs of rural communities, uninhibited by any political affiliations. We have already held 32 events and have 26 events still to be held. If you haven’t already done so, we would encourage you to complete the survey online and to share it with friends and family: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/wearerural
I’m a keen advocate for rural connectivity and I am delighted that we are launching a working group to share experiences, identify problems and make positive recommendations for change to the current delivery programme. There is more information on this below, but I am keen to hear from any groups interested in this issue in rural Scotland.
I hope you enjoy the rest of the newsletter and that we will hear from you at an event, or online, about what would be in your Manifesto for rural Scotland.